Ideas for sale, but free is still enticing

wok cookingMany things are for sale on the Internet -- books, movies, car batteries and food, among millions of other things.

GenApple wants to sell ideas.

Are they worth it? It depends on your interests and how much you're willing to spend to learn to cook Chinese food ($1.08) or how to monetize Facebook fan pages ($21.60).
There are also plenty of free things at GenApple, such as Adsense promo codes. Customers can also set prices to buy things, such as the $5 someone is bidding in a quest for tips on playing online poker.

One of the goals of the site, which is in public beta mode with about 30 listings, is to be an information brokerage, said Mark Hanson, 28, president and CEO, in a telephone interview from his office in Minnesota.

Reporters, for example, can get a juicy story about a celebrity and sell it on GenApple to the highest bidding media outlet. Any non-public information can be sold on the site, including business insights into scientific discoveries. But once someone buys that information, what prevents them from giving it to the rest of the world for free?

Nothing, Hanson said. "Information wants to be free," he said.

Exactly. And that's why I think that much of the information for sale on GenApple could probably be found somewhere else online for free. That's why Google was made.

"We're not competing against the Internet," said Hanson, who insists there's proprietary value to personal knowledge. There is, but much of it is free online.

Tips on how to cook Chinese food abound on the Internet. Learning how to monetize Facebook is also free, and the person willing to pay $5 for online poker tips can save their money by simply going to

The concept of buying and selling ideas online needs to gain steam before it explodes like eBay did after people originally were wary of buying things online, Hanson said.

"People aren't really thinking about the buying and selling of information," he said.

One way GenApple may meet demand is to have sellers like John Arleth of Minnetonka, Minn., who is selling answers to software problems. For about $9, Arleth, 65, will answer a question about software such as InDesign, or help troubleshoot font design.

"I know people get very frustrated when dealing with software," Arleth told WalletPop in a telephone interview.

It's a good way to use his years of knowledge.

"It just seemed a very interesting opportunity to make some money in my old age," he said.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be reached at

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